Review: Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix
I must admit that this is the first Kingdom Hearts game I’ve spent more than an hour with, and rarely do I ignore a series as prolific and well loved as this. As a newcomer I find the fact that this is both the ‘1.5 Remix’ as well as the ‘Final Mix’ to be a slightly odd concept, but apparently it’s the additional content which makes up the extra 0.5 worth of stuff. As well as the original, this package includes Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories (translation: remade version of the GBA game) and three hours of remastered cinematics from the DS game Kingdom hearts 358/2 Days. In total this is enough Kingdom Hearts for you to gorge yourself until you feel sick, and that’s probably exactly what will happen.
I can see why back in 2002 people though Kingdom Hearts was great, but time has not been kind to the title, and the addition of high-definition output and ‘trophy support’ does little to hide the fact that this is an eleven year old game that now feels archaic. Whilst the action oriented combat may have once worked in Kingdom Heart’s favour, the endless task of hacking through beasts stands out as a tedious distraction as you try and work out where you’re supposed to go next.
Kingdom Hearts is an unintuitive game where you’ll waste a lot of time wandering around aimlessly. It’s fine I guess if you’ve played it before, but with its uninspiring world there is little motivation to get exploring, and little fun in doing so. The game’s flat opening is a particularly pointless fetch quest where have to find logs, mushrooms and other dull objects.
I was looking forward to seeing how the Disney and Final Fantasy franchises would come together in the Kingdom Hearts story. Unfortunately, the game has an inconsistent tone and an uninteresting overarching narrative that constantly gets sidetracked. The voice acting is varied and a lot of the dialogue feels wooden and forced. Ultimately I couldn’t care less about a single thing that happened in the game. Graphically the game sure does output in high-definition – they weren’t lying about that, but on a large television the characters look nasty up close, and the world feels bare and empty. As with many of these style remakes, just because its now running at the correct resolution doesn’t mean that the game feels natural on a modern television, and if you’ve got an old CRT then you’re probably better off with the original.
Re:Chain of Memories looks and feels pretty much identical to the first game, but doesn’t do much to hide that it was originally a handheld game. On the GameBoy Advance it had a card based combat system which has to some extent been kept, but elements from the battles in the original are also incorporated. This gives an additional layer of depth to the combat, but as there’s now a separate battle screen the trade off is integration with the main experience. Still, it’s nice that combat doesn’t get in the way of exploring.
Perhaps the biggest problem in Re:Chain of Memories is that the large open worlds of the original are gone. Instead you are traversing through a small series of rooms, which may have worked on the GBA, but as a PlayStation 3 game it is absolutly no fun to play. Overall a slightly more competent battle system does little to redeem this.
If you remember Kingdom Hearts as a great game from your childhood then by all means enjoy this remake. But if like me you’re looking to get into a series you missed out on, you might soon be realising you didn’t miss out on much. On the plus side the game does include quite a lot of Kingdom Hearts, and after a few hours play you’ll probably appreciate all the luxuries new games give us and we take for granted.